Men Still Dominate Scientific Research. Here are 26 Ways to Change That.

Posted August 17, 2023

Equality for women in science is not just good for women but also for science, says Cassidy Sugimoto, professor and Tom and Marie Patton Chair in Georgia Tech's School of Public Policy. 

For example, when a study is women-led, it's more likely to include women as subjects — something that's critical to medical research. Unfortunately, Sugimoto finds, "without strong interventions, several generations will pass before men and women have equal opportunity to shape scientific knowledge." 

"It'll take us until the year 2158 at the rate we're going to reach parity in physics, and we're looking at more than a century before we have parity in the sciences," Sugimoto said in a presentation. "As a mother of two daughters, that's a little too long for me to wait."

So, why is women’s representation in research still so unequal, and what can we do to change it? In Sugimoto's new book Equity for Women in Science, she and co-author Vincent Larivière of the Université de Montréal explore the systemic barriers preventing the advancement of women in science. They examined millions of published papers and found:

  • In fields where the most senior position is listed last on publications, the last author is a man 75% of the time. 
  • When women are the last author, they select another woman for the first author position — a junior role important to career retention and advancement — 46% of the time. In comparison, men only select a woman 32% of the time. 
  • Men are more likely to be funded than women and to receive greater amounts, with men securing $220,000 on average and women receiving $170,000. 
  • Women are less likely to travel or move, two activities that are associated with a higher number of publications and citations.
  • Articles written exclusively by women are less cited than articles written solely by men.

To combat this, Sugimoto and Larivière lay out 26 recommendations for scientists, universities, professional societies, and science communicators.

"When science is representative of the full population, the benefits of science will also extend to the fullest," they write. While that's not yet the case, these 26 action items can help us move closer to that goal.


Recommendations for scientists

1. Acknowledge the work of women scientists

2. Provide training and mentoring for women scientists

3. Be fair and transparent in the division of labor, authorship, and reward

4. Avoid gender segregation in meetings

5. Use research indicators responsibly

6. Demonstrate zero tolerance for harassment in science

7. Embrace plurality of career trajectories


Recommendations for Universities

8. Create more inclusive promotion and tenure guidelines and processes.

9. Make increases in women's authorship an institutional goal

10. Support women scientists and provide resources for success

11. Take care to avoid cultural taxation when increasing representation

12. Promote women and women's work

13. Reimagine the ideal worker

14. Support inclusive hiring practices

15. Take a firm stance on sexual harassment and gender discrimination


Recommendations for Professional Societies and Publishers

16. Evaluate and fund projects, not simply people 

17.; Monitor and report on gender indicators

18. Institute mandates that encourage gender equity and justice

19. Reduce bias in peer review

20. Create opportunities for greater visibility and mobility for women scientists

21. Increase transparency and fairness in peer review 

22. Adopt inclusive publication practices 

23. Create safe spaces for women

24. Increase the visibility of women scientists


Recommendations for Science Communicators

25. Amplify women scientists and their work

26. Provide opportunities and training for women in science communication


Equity for Women in Science was published by Harvard University Press in 2023

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Di Minardi
Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts